If you don’t already know the answer to that question, you haven’t been paying attention since Mitt Romney chose Ryan to be his running mate on the GOP ticket. But I have. Well, not really, but I did stumble across a piece by David Wiegel today in Slate. My jaw is still out of position after that experience.
Just by way of background, since Congressman Ryan became a major figure a couple of years ago, it became common knowledge that he was something of a devote of Ayn Rand, the well-known lunatic, psychopathic, and megalomaniacal author of really bad books like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged read by millions of adolescents and juveniles of all ages around the world, and the author of a not very well-known, unfinished and unpublished novel, The Little Street inspired by someone possibly even more monstrous than she, the murderer William Edward Hickman. While Rand has a cult following among certain strains of extreme right-wing zealotry, conservative Christians tend to take offense at Rand’s hysterical anti-religious bigotry. Right-wing criticism of Rand’s militant atheism combined with liberal Catholic criticism of Ryan’s budget proposals as based on the principles and teachings of Ayn Rand forced Congressman Ryan to disavow Rand in an interview with National Review. Beyond disassociating himself from Rand, Ryan called the widely circulated story that that he required members of his staff to read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as an “urban legend.” Unfortunately for Mr. Ryan, there is a recording of a 2005 speech that he gave to the Atlas Society in which he himself stated:
I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.
Congressman Ryan apparently does not know that although Rand admired Mises, she loathed and detested Hayek as a compromiser.
David Wiegel delved into Ryan’s speech to the Atlas Society and found this mind-boggling passage (which I quote in slightly more detail than Wiegel).
It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand‘s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d’Anconia’s speech (at Bill Taggart’s wedding) on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism…
I now quote from Wiegel’s piece:
The Galt speech is fairly famous, but the d’Anconia speech is more obscure. So: In the novel, Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’Anconia is the heir to a copper mining fortune who slowly dismantles it by purposefully giving in to the demands of “looters.” He admits this to Dagny Taggart, the heroine (and his former love), fairly early on. He spent $8 million, for example, on a “housing settlement” that the Mexican government demanded he build at one of the mines. It’ll all fall apart soon, he admits, except for the miners’ new church — “they’ll need it,” he says contemptuously. “Whether I did it on purpose, or through neglect, or through stupidity, don’t you understand that that doesn’t make any difference? The same element was missing.”
In early chapters, d’Anconia pretends to be a Bruce Wayne-esque reckless playboy. He occasionally slips, because he’s a Rand character. Thus, “Bill Taggart’s wedding speech,” when d’Anconia goes to the party of a businessman using state connections to make money. A left-wing magazine writer tells him that “money is the root of all evil.” That sets off d’Anconia, who launches rant about money that runs to 23 paragraphs. “When you accept money in payment for your effort,” he says, “you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor – your claim upon the energy of the men who produce.”
The problem, says d’Anconia, is that statists — looters and moochers — see dollar signs and think they can, must redistribute them. “Whenever destroyers appear among men,” he says, “they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’”
So there you have it; this is where Paul Ryan goes to think about monetary policy. Let’s read it again: “Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. . . . Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs.” OMG!
Jack Kemp, for whom Paul Ryan worked when he started his career, had what, at the time, seemed like a merely eccentric obsession with gold, expending a great deal of his considerable political energy and capital in futile attempts over at least two decades to stir up interest in restoring the gold standard. Apparently he was also an admirer of Ayn Rand. Thanks to David Weigel, we now know that the inspiration for a fetishistic obsession with gold may just be Francisco d’Anconia’s speech at Bill Taggart’s wedding in Atlas Shrugged. Paul Ryan has been somewhat more circumspect than his mentor, Jack Kemp, in prostelytizing on behalf of the gold standard. But now we know where his head is. And we know the source — the fountainhead — for his “thinking” on monetary policy. He said so himself. Thank you, Congressman Ryan, for sharing.